From tax to pensions, the most common legal problems in France

From tax to pensions, the most common legal problems in France
Like most countries, France has some pretty complicated laws. Photo: AFP
Getting caught up in legal matters is no-one favourite time, but it happens to most of us and when you are in a foreign country it can be confusing. French legal academic Omalaud Tibbets explains the basics of French law.

Legal matters are such complicated affairs to understand at the best of times and the legal system of France is of course no exception!

The civil law system here comprises of a series of ‘Codes’ where the tenets of the law are all written down and points of law are debated and ruled upon by judges based upon the interpretation of these codes.

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Judges in France generally rule on legal codes, rather than legal precedent. Photo: AFP

In the UK and US by comparison where the ‘common law’ system prevails and litigation and legal decisions are, for the most, part based upon established practice or custom, referred to as ‘precedent’.

The law of France will touch most of us at some point.

For many of us we, our first dealings with the law when we buy a home here. The system of buying differs considerably to that of buying a property in the UK and there are several different ways of going about it that you’ll need to be aware of before you buy.

If you plan to live full time here then there’s a whole host of other different legal issues that you’ll need to consider, from wills and estate planning to setting up a business and insurance, etc.

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French inheritance laws can invalidate a will made in another country, as the family of the late French singer Johnny Hallyday found out. Photo: AFP

There is help out there guide you through the myriad of legal issues and the internet and social media has never played such an important role as it does today in bringing together under one roof people with similar interests, experience and problems.

Strictly Legal France is one of these social media community resources which has recently been launched on Facebook, aimed specifically at foreigners living in France.

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The fast-growing group deals with all aspects of the law here and is run with the participation of some respected legal professionals including a practising notaire.

Popular topics of discussion include wills and inheritance, taxation, pensions and family issues.

If you’re not sure about the law in France and how it affects you, or even if you may have unwittingly broken it, there are plenty of people out there with their experiences to share who can point you in the right direction and help you avoid the mistakes which they have already made many times before. 

As always however, it should be said that legal matters can be incredibly difficult and complicated to understand in your own language – never mind in French – and some matters can only be resolved by litigation in a court of law. A legal specialist such as an advocate or notaire should be consulted if you cant find all the answers you need, but it is reassuring to know that there are people out there who are able to guide you.  

Omalaud Tibbets is a member of the teaching staff at the law faculty of the University of Paris Panthéon-Sorbonne who set up the Facebook group Strictly Legal France after becoming aware through his work with landlords and tenants that many foreign residents in France need access to help navigating their way through the French legal system.


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